A police crackdown of knife crime has begun as a new report underlines the shocking extent of the problem in the county.

Between April 2010 and September 2018 Essex recorded an 43 per cent increase in offences involving a knife, according to date from the Office of National Statistics.

The figures show that knife crime is rising at a much steeper rate in Essex than in London as the use of blades spreads from the cities to the shires.

It also coincides with a fall in police numbers nationally from 140,000 active officers in 2010 to 120,000 in 2018, and a huge reduction of stop and searches from 1.4m to 300,000 over the same period.

Essex MEP Alex Mayer, who recently spoke at the Essex wide United Against Knife Crime schools programme said: “Theresa May doesn’t seem to have grasped there’s a problem with knife crime but local residents do and the head of the Police Federation agrees we have a “national crisis.

“This is what happens when you slash police numbers and decimate youth services.

“The Chancellor has a Spring Statement on Wednesday. Surely he should grasp the nettle and find more funding for the police before more children die.”

In a bid to tackle the worrying trend today (March 11) Essex Police launched Operation Sceptre.

In Essex, Operation Sceptre will kick off a longer period of action designed to target knife crime.

During the crackdown the force conduct weapons sweeps to find weapons that criminals may have hidden for later use, carry out high visibility patrols and intelligence-led stop checks and run joint patrols with British Transport Police and the use of knife arches at some of the county’s train stations.

They will also work with schools, colleges and youth organisations to educate children and young people about the dangers of carrying knives.

Essex Police’s temporary assistant chief constable Paul Wells said: “Sadly, we’ve seen an increase in knife nationally and an increase in violent crime here in Essex – and I understand this affects how safe people feel.

“However, it’s also important to note that less than eight people in every 1,000 here in Essex will be a victim of a violent crime with injury.

“Driving down violent crime remains one of our top priorities, but tackling the underlying issues is complex and is a battle that we as a community must fight together.

“We know knife and violent crime is closely associated with gangs and drugs, but also with domestic abuse.

“Those who are involved in gangs or organised crime carry knives and other weapons because of the threat of violence that hangs over them. Arresting them is not always a deterrent.

“We need to educate our children about whether that’s the kind of life they want to lead – carrying weapons, always looking over their shoulder and being not only at risk of getting hurt but facing the consequences of hurting someone else.

“Tackling knife crime involves more than just enforcement. It is a community responsibility, which is why we work with other organisations within the criminal justice system, our community safety partnerships, charities, schools and community groups to try and educate people to prevent knife crime happening in the first place.

“Information is also really key. If you know someone who carries a weapon or have information about drugs or gangs, for example, tell us.

“We can then take action against those people.”

For more information about knife crime in Essex, visit www.essex.police.uk/knifecrime